How about a little realism?

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Example: The Cultural Center was dreamed up by a handful of Suffolk residents who sensed that their beloved downtown had become a dinosaur.

The idea had merit and alumni were the first to be solicited. They responded, some generously, others what they could.

Then the &uot;founders&uot; realized the enormity of their dream and convinced city hall it could invigorate the city by offering an opportunity for the citizens to learn art, like making pottery, oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, photography, cooking skills, acting, shows, and etc. It’s called &uot;culture.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Council agreed to foot the balance and gave several million dollars. Then, without a word to us, they agreed to an annual million of our taxes.

Immediately they hired a high-priced &uot;director.&uot; I have no idea what this dream has already cost me, but I know there is no end to it.

The center boils down to teaching crafts, a small theater, a meeting room, a gift shop, and office space for the Suffolk Department of Recreation. Those millions would have restored the now useless Kings Highway Bridge. But it will be a beautiful building.

Downtown is not &uot;pulsing with excitement&uot; as tourist pamphlets describe it. There is a rush of auto and pedestrian traffic at noon, when everyone breaks for lunch in a plethora of eateries. (Eating each other up: Pisces closed for lunch) …and that’s it.

Of course, there are the usual retail places every small town has, but many of them have disappeared even with the Cultural Center looming on the horizon. The streets don’t pulse at night.

Other have convinced City Council that our Division Of Tourism, cart before the horse, should have a budget of $460,000. (That’s equivalent to 153 taxpayers paying $3,000 each in property tax) Why? No tourists stand in line to see the railroad station. Not all citizens of Suffolk have visited Riddicks Folly.

Many suspect tourist counts at the visitor’s center are padded; yet if 8,400 is accurate, that’s 23 a day, no stampede warranting millions to restore the courthouse.

How many hotels, motels and eateries are actually doing better because of tourists? Our tourism staff of four is hard at work attempting to create a silk purse.

Is historical Suffolk unique? What southern city doesn’t have a history? The book &uot;Suffolk, A Pictorial History&uot; by Kermit Hobbs and William A. Paquette, provides accurate information and is in print. I can pick up that book any time I need to see pictures of old Suffolk, similar to scenes I saw as a boy. I’d guess every city in America began exactly as did Suffolk, on a wide spot in a road or on the bank of a river, though probably minus Civil War generals and battlefields.

It’s true that people get bored sitting at home, and they jump in the car and get away at least for a day. But, honestly, what’s in Suffolk? A lunch and gas stop on the way to somewhere else … depending primarily on the gas gauge.

I’d head for 16 choices of a movie in Harbor View, or an Imax in Hampton, or a beach at the ocean, a ballgame in Norfolk, taking an out of town guest to see the USS Wisconsin. We really try to do our shopping in Suffolk and believe that’s how a town prospers and local taxes shrink.

But, honestly, downtown is too far and not at all interesting. I spend more time in doctor’s offices on Mead Parkway.

The tour director says it is desirable that &uot;Tourists come, buy gas, eat, and go home.&uot; The budget is $460,000; so where are they?

As for the Hilton, planners were correct to expect it to take two years to catch fire (figuratively speaking). The conference rooms are allegedly busy and hopefully more profitable than the marina.

Perhaps this summer the hotel grounds will be a &uot;destination&uot; for the locals. Remember, we do own the park.

Contact Pocklington at